A 28-year-old guy living in his parents’ basement in South Philadelphia just might be one of the foremost experts on the American Catholic Church.

Rocco Palmo facetiously calls himself “The Church Whisperer,” and over the past six years, his blog has become a must-read for ecclesiastical insiders. After starting with just three readers a few days before Christmas in 2004, Palmo has built up an audience of roughly 500,000 unique visitors each month. When he attends church conferences, he’s treated like a rock star. Archbishops line up to shake his hand.

His most recent scoop occurred late last month when Baltimore archdiocese Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien was appointed to the prestigious post of grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. The news broke in Palmo’s blog, “Whispers in the Loggia,” on Aug. 27 – two days before the appointment was officially announced by the Vatican.

That’s not bad for a guy who, unlike his competition in the Catholic press, has managed to develop highly placed sources in the Holy See without ever having lived in Rome. It’s not bad for a guy with a college degree in political science who learned journalism on the fly. And it’s not bad considering that Palmo is covering a notoriously secretive institution whose sources could be excommunicated for slipping him information.

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